From a very early age, cooking was always a passion for Dhilon Devji.
Dhilon grew up in Syston in a shop environment but didn’t immediately enter a career in food; instead taking a Physics degree at the University of Nottingham.
“I loved cooking when I was young, but I didn’t see a future with it from the start because I gave up meat, and vegetarianism and veganism wasn’t that big back then,” Dhilon explained.
“I didn’t really enjoy my university course and spent a lot of time at home cooking instead. While I was at uni I remember making a logo for a business, which is the business I still have today. So, the logo you see now is the same as the one made on PowerPoint at uni!”
After graduating in August 2019, Dhilon looked for a job but the idea around having his own own food business was still in the back of his mind. So, when lockdown hit in March 2020, Dhilon started running a takeaway from his mum’s kitchen.
“We would take orders through WhatsApp and people would come to the house to pick the food up,” Dhilon remembered.
“During lockdown, I remember doing deliveries with a mask and a selfie stick with a card machine on the end of it to collect payments while social distancing!
“I did that for about 18 months, and then when lockdown eased we set up pop-up stalls at pubs. We focussed our entire menu on vegan food. I gave up meat when I was about 12 years old but I still like the taste of it, so we created vegan chicken wings. This is our unique product – very realistic, and tastes just like a real chicken wing. We put that on the menu with wing boxes, and then I spent a whole year developing a vegan kebab meat, which led to our vegan Seekh Kebab.”
Having launched his full menu, and with lockdown easing, Dhilon’s drive to take his business to the next level led him to The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity.
“I spoke to a Trustee of The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity,” Dhilon reflected.
“Here, I was introduced to the business loans, available for nine years interest-free, with no payments for the first three years, up to the value of £20,000. It sounded perfect, so I applied.
“The business plan and application process was super easy – much easier than the other processes I’ve been through. I had a meeting with the Trustees, and after a month I was granted the loan.”
“With that loan, I took £13,000 out and used it to buy a mobile food truck,” Dhilon continued.
“It was quite old and run-down to begin with, but the idea was to completely refurbish it. So, with the remainder of the money from the loan, we used a local Leicester business to help do the truck up. We now have internet facilities in there, fires, grills and a wok. That’s really helped to get our takeaway business up and running. We launched officially in April 2022 in Wigston, and things have been pretty successful since then.”
With progress running smoothly and the future looking bright, Dhilon was full of praise for the benefits of STWLC’s interest-free business loan.
“Without the loan from STWLC, I wouldn’t have been able to grow the business, as my family didn’t have enough money to fund it,” he said.
“The fact that the loan is nine years interest-free takes the pressure off, because you know there isn’t any interest building up on you. If you’re not a well-known brand in the food business, and you move into a brick and mortar site, you suddenly have loads of bills to pay – gas, water, electricity, staff wages – and if you aren’t making money straight away, you’re already on the back foot. With the STWLC loan not requiring payments in the first three years, that gives you time to learn without financial pressure from the start.
“The Charity have made a massive difference to me and I would definitely recommend them.”
For more information on Dhil’s Eats and to view their menu, head over to www.dhils-eats.com
The Dhil’s Eats mobile food truck is located at 246 Aylestone Lane, LE18 1BD – open Thursday to Sunday, 5-10pm.
To find out more about STWLC’s interest-free business loans, please click here